Every child needs a set of dominoes, or two or three! This is a traditional very simple matching game with huge educational value. Whether your child is matching pictures, numbers or dots they are working with similarities and differences to find the perfect match. Children can play on their own or against each other to see who can get rid of their stack of dominoes first.

I particularly like the Smart Play wooden dominoes from RGS because of their durability – they will last a lifetime and can easily be used in large group situations without getting damaged. They are clearly illustrated and curriculum friendly, and also come with clear, easy to understand instructions. Watch the video here or scroll down to the bottom of this blog.

There are four different sets in the the Smart Play dominoes range, each consisting of 21 pieces and suitable for 1 – 4 players:

  • Smart Dominoes (pictures eg watering can, strawberry, flower, truck, tortoise etc.) for 3 – 4 year olds
  • Domino Dots (from 1 – 6 in the same configuration you would find on a dice) for 4 – 5 year olds
  • Domino Numbers (from 1 – 6 in the correct font for the school curriculum) for 5 – 6 year olds
  • How do You Feel? (face illustrations of the following expressions/emotions: surprised, angry, sad, fearful, proud, happy, playful) for 4 – 6 year olds

What your child will learn

  • Matching – matching the correct dominoes together
  • Visual memory – What is the picture I need to match to the domino in the middle of the table?
  • Vocabulary – learning new words eg, objects, numbers, emotions
  • Problem solving – making
  • Shape and form constancy – eg. the number 3 is the number 3 whether I look at it the right way up, sideways or upside down
  • Concentration
  • Task completion
  • Thinking and reasoning – especially with the number dominoes and the emotions dominoes
  • Labelling and expressing emotions – it is important for children to be able to name/label their emotions and be able to tell you how they are feeling
  • Counting – with the dot dominoes get your child to touch each dot with their finger when they are counting. Eventually they will learn to recognise the numbers by the configuration of the dots.
  • Adding – hold up a single dot or number domino and ask your child to add the dots or numbers
  • Subtracting – hold up a single dot or number domino and ask your child to subtract the smaller number from the bigger number

How to play traditional dominoes

  • For a one-player game, put down a domino and build using matching pictures on either end.
  • In traditional dominoes deal out 7 dominoes to each player and place the rest face down in the middle of the table.
  • For easy play use the dominoes face up and players take turns to play any domino in their hand that matches one of the pictures on the end of a domino that has already been played. If they don’t have a match then they get to pick up another domino from the pile in the middle of the table. If that doesn’t match then play moves on to the next player.
  • For a more challenging game, deal out 7 dominoes to each player. They keep them in a pile face down in front of them. During a player’s turn, they turn over the top one and if it matches they place it on the table. If it doesn’t, then they pick up a domino from the middle pile on the table and play moves on to the next player.
  • The first player to get rid of all their dominoes is the winner.

Expressions dominoes – two ways to play:

  • Game 1:  Play exact matching expressions
  • Game 2: Play cards with the opposite expression of the one on the table eg. happy/sad

Number and dot dominoes

These teach children about quantity in the semi-concrete (dots) and in the abstract (numbers).  They have to match quantity and be able to recognise the dot configuration or number from any angle which is called shape and form constancy.

Smart Play Dominoes were reviewed by Nikki Bush.

Age category:              3 years for picture dominoes, 4 years for expressions dominoes and 5 years for

                                        dot and number dominoes

Price:                             Approx.  R59 per set

Brand:                           Smart Play

Distributor:                  RGS Group

Retail outlets:             Westpack and Makro